When the trailer of the pilot episode of The Newsroom hit YouTube, Alex immediately recommended that I see it. Well, it was more than a recommendation as she said it with a sense of urgency. Unfortunately, because I hate streaming and because of work load, I never saw the trailer.
At around the same time, Sam told me I should watch Fringe. Knowing how I was such a fan of The X-Files and CSI (except for Horatio Kane), she said I’d like it.
On Facebook, I ran a status post mentioning both suggestions from my daughters. The reaction? More friends voted for Fringe than The Newsroom.
Fast forward to several weeks later. Speedy and I started watching Fringe on weekdays, we liked it but watching it was more of a time filler. If we weren’t busy with something else and Fringe was on, then fine. If three episodes were aired in succession and we weren’t busy, we stayed glued. In short, we were able to see about a dozen episodes but since they weren’t shown in sequence, the experience was, at best, jumbled and, at times, quite chaotic.
Then, The Newsroom finally aired. Much as I enjoyed what I had seen of Fringe, I have to admit that The Newsroom is more up my alley.
What is The Newsroom about? It’s about a news program in the fictional Atlantis Cable News (ACN) channel. It chronicles how news items are chosen, what the parameters are for choosing which are worth the airtime, how ratings and advertising figure in the equation and — most importantly — the gray areas and moral dilemmas faced by journalists.
Interspersed with the frenetic pace that approximates the workflow in a real news network are the personal lives of the characters which is really just as integral to The Newsroom as the political and the social bites. Why not? After all, it is a TV drama series and the drama has to be there.
Not surprisingly, most media outlets aren’t raving about the show. Why should they — The Newsroom dares to question to whom journalistic loyalty should lie — the advertisers or the viewers?
The Newsroom takes some very sarcastic bites about print and broadcast media as they are today. For instance, what separates news from entertainment? Are people who write for gossip tabloids real journalists at all? Is a report about what makes Taylor Swift happy a bona fide news report?
What should weigh more when a news network considers what to report — the feelings and interests of the advertisers or what people really ought to know about? Is the exploitation of a child’s death and the arrest of her mother (the case of Casey Anthony) responsible journalism? What visual tricks do networks employ to shape public opinion when subjecting a person to a trial by publicity?
These are widespread practices in media today. As sleazy and as shady as they are, media outlets themselves have — without articulating it — accepted and adopted these practices because they translate to ratings and profitability. News, after all, is first and foremost a business. At least, in today’s world.
The critics of The Newsroom scoff at its sanctimoniousness, intellectual self-righteousness and smugness. While I agree that it is far easier to be self-righteous, idealistic and be a loose canon in a fictional cable news network than in a real one, The Newsroom does deliver, and delivers well, questions that we ought to ask everyday but don’t or rarely do.